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Kate Wolf

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Kate Wolf
Wolf circa 1980
Wolf circa 1980
Background information
Birth nameKathryn Louise Allen
Born(1942-01-27)January 27, 1942
San Francisco, California, US
DiedDecember 10, 1986(1986-12-10) (aged 44)
San Francisco, California, US
GenresFolk, Country folk
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s)Vocalist, acoustic guitar, piano
Years active1976–1986
LabelsOwl, Kaleidoscope, Rhino

Kate Wolf (born Kathryn Louise Allen; January 27, 1942 – December 10, 1986) was an American folk singer and songwriter.[1] Though her career was relatively short, she had a significant impact on the folk music scene. Her best-known compositions include "Here in California", "Love Still Remains", "Across the Great Divide", "Unfinished Life", “Green Eyes” and "Give Yourself to Love". She recorded six albums as a solo artist.[2] She was elected to the NAIRD Independent Music Hall of Fame in 1987.[1] Her songs have since been recorded by Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris (whose recording of "Love Still Remains" was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1999[3]).


Wolf was born in San Francisco to John Fred Allen (*1915) and Ernestine Ruth Allen, née Endicott (1918−1996). She began studying piano at 4 but quit at 16 because of her shyness.[1] During their senior year (1959–60) at Berkeley High School, Kathy Allen and Marian Auerbach (now Shapiro) sang folk songs at the Berkeley High School Talent Shows (1957 and 1960). Aged 19, she first met Saul Wolf, an architecture student at UC Berkeley, and they married after two years.[4] They had two children, born in 1964 and 1967.[4]

In 1969 she became part of the Big Sur music community and developed rapidly as a guitarist and songwriter, influenced by such friends as Gil "Jellyroll" Turner and George Schroder.[1] In 1971, she parted from Saul Wolf on good terms and moved to Sonoma County and formed her first band, The Wildwood Flower, with Don Coffin whom she later married.[4]

Her first album, Back Roads, released in 1976 on her own label, Owl Records,[2] was recorded in a living room with the band Wildwood Flower and was "remarkably well done."[1] An important mentor, friend and touring companion was Utah Phillips.[5] In 1979, she separated from Don Coffin, and the Wildwood Flower folded, but guitarist and mandolin player Nina Gerber became her accompanist for the rest of her career.[4]

She married again in 1982 to Terry Fowler until her death in 1986. She died in December 1986, at age 44, after a long struggle with leukemia.[6] She's buried at a small church cemetery in Goodyears Bar, California. In 1987, the World Folk Music Association established the Kate Wolf Award to honor her memory.[7]


  • Back Roads (1976) (billed as Kate Wolf and the Wildwood Flower)
  • Lines on the Paper (1977) (billed as Kate Wolf and the Wildwood Flower)
  • Safe at Anchor (1979)
  • Close to You (1980)
  • Give Yourself to Love (1982)
  • Poet's Heart (1985)
  • Gold in California – A Retrospective of Recordings (1986)
  • The Wind Blows Wild (1988)
  • An Evening in Austin (1988)
  • Looking Back at You (1994)
  • Carry It On (1996)
  • Weaver of Visions – The Kate Wolf Anthology (2000)
  • Live in Mendocino (2018)

A live performance by Kate Wolf in 1981, comprising seven songs on which she is accompanied by Nina Gerber and Ford James, is included in the 2024 album Bear's Sonic Journals: Sing Out!.

Wolf, with fellow musician Don Coffin to whom she was married at the time, also appears on the 1973 album We Walked by the Water by folksinger Lionel Kilberg. This album was re-released in 1995 under the title Breezes and credited to Wolf alone on the front cover. Her family has stated that Wolf did not consider these songs as representative of her work.[8]

Both Kilberg's We Walked by the Water and Wolf's own album Lines on the Paper are dedicated to Gil Turner, who Wolf and Coffin first met via Lionel Kilberg. Wolf subsequently recorded her own version of Turner's much-covered folk anthem "Carry It On".

A number of Wolf's albums were done in collaboration with Bill Griffin.

Music festival[edit]

Wolf's music was celebrated each year toward the end of June at the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival held at Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, California. Several thousand guests attended this outdoor festival, which was regularly headlined by popular folk musicians such as Nina Gerber and Greg Brown. The festival traditionally closed with Wolf's song "Give Yourself to Love".[3]

The 25th annual Kate Wolf Music Festival was scheduled for June 2020, then postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It took place 2 years later, as a 4-day festival, rescheduled to June 23–26, 2022. According to the promoters, Back Road Productions, 2022 was the final Kate Wolf Music Festival.[citation needed]

Tributes and covers[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Kate Wolf", pp. 533–534, in All Music Guide, 2nd edition (1994), edited by Michael Erlewine. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books. OCLC 989591409.
  2. ^ a b "Kate Wolf Discography". katewolf.com. February 15, 2014. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Kate Wolf: Give Yourself to Love". Legacy.com. December 10, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Wolf, Max; Keller, Jamie. "Kate Wolf Biography". katewolf.com. Retrieved August 14, 2021.
  5. ^ "Folksinger Utah Phillips to perform at the Arboretum June 21". UC Santa Cruz News. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  6. ^ "Kate Wolf, 44; Folk Singer, Songwriter". Los Angeles Times. December 14, 1986. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  7. ^ Noble, Richard E. (2009). Number #1 : the story of the original Highwaymen. Denver: Outskirts Press. p. 143. ISBN 9781432738099. OCLC 426388468.
  8. ^ "Breezes". Official Kate Wolf Website. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  9. ^ "Buskin and Batteau", World Folk Music Association.

External links[edit]